Messages of Whitefor saxophone quartet, erhu, sheng, pipa, yangqin and percussion (2011)
|Commission||The PRISM Quartet, Inc. with support from the MAP Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts|
|Premiere||February 3, 2012, Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York City|
Messages of White was composed during my residency at the American Academy in Rome. I learnt that the magnificent Santa Maria Maggiore – one of the seven pilgrimage churches and also one of the four patriarchal basilicas of Rome –was built on the spot where snow, according to Pope Liberius’s vision of the Virgin Mary, would lie in August.
It led me to contemplate on the diverse messages snow seems to embody: innocence, silence, pain, playfulness, longing, solitude, miracle, fantasy, redemption. Liu Zongyuan’s snowy riverscape; the footprints in Cen Sen; the sound of snow in Bai Juyi; the snow in Joyce’s Dublin; in Zhang Dai’s West Lake; in Issa’s haiku; the nostalgic time for parting in Japan; my personal memory of listening to snowfall in Fresh Pond, Cambridge; snow in fairytales; and the miraculous snowfall in June in Chuzhou, China, covering the body of the unjustly executed Dou-E. In Chinese, “xue” (snow) is homonymous to the word for blood.
The basic musical material of this composition is a descending chromatic line that appears in various manifestations and disguises, sometimes radically transformed and obscured. The sections are given the following titles: “White Solitude,” “White Dream,” “White Game,” “White Echo” and “White Symphony.”